Finding Community in the 3rd Cousin Kitchen

Greg Lutes_profile

Greg Lutes

3rd Cousin, San Francisco

Chef Lutes’ reverence for each and every ingredient that enters his kitchen makes up the unique dining experience at 3rd Cousin. When he was a dishwasher in high school, the owners of the restaurant started teaching him how to cook his own food — his passion for creating organic, seasonal dishes to share among community has led Chef Lutes to open a restaurant all of his own. Chef Lutes’ roots from a small, rural town in Illinois are seen to influence the atmosphere of the restaurant to emphasize a feeling of community, and we can’t wait to join the family dinner table!

The Inside Scoop

What are some of your other talents, interests, and hobbies?

I’m active in the yoga community and have cooked for multiple yoga retreats. I have partnered with a yoga teacher here in San Francisco, his name is Pete Guinosso, and he’s one of the top yoga teachers in San Francisco. I’m always finding new and creative ways to connect people with food. I’m currently active in a healthy snack program with Glen Park Elementary School. With the help of the PTA, we’re working to partner with chefs and restaurants to help provide healthy snacks for kids, and we want to bring this program to other schools as well.

What is the best thing about having people eat your dishes?

The best thing is seeing their reaction. A few of my dishes invoke an extraordinary response of “oh my god, this is the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth!” or “this is what dreams are made out of!” When people have such an overwhelmingly positive response, it feels like we’ve really connected with them and created something more than just dining — it’s creating memories. 

Why do you think it’s important that kids learn how to cook ?

I think it’s important to help kids slow down and enjoy the process of cooking, as well as sharing a meal with people and the connectivity that food brings — it brings people together in the kitchen when we’re cooking and chopping, it also brings people together when we’re eating and having conversation. I value the importance of having the time to spend together. Opening their eyes to the fact that there is food that’s better for your body and a better way of preparing it. When you do cook for yourself, it’s better than buying it prepared already because you’re connected to the process.

What was one of the most rewarding moments that you have had as a chef?

I had my family into one of the restaurants where I was a chef— my mom, my dad, and my brother were there. I was out in the dining room talking to some people, and just spontaneously, everyone started clapping. It just so happened that my parents were there at the same time. That was probably one of my higher moments of pride — it wasn’t even planned! I felt like rock star at that point.

Is there anything else we should know about your restaurant?

What I want to communicate is that 3rd Cousin’s name comes from the spirit of welcoming people into our home like family. One reason why I’m involved with Sprouts is that I value the relationships with the community, kids, and parents. I grew up in a town of 350 people, and I feel that 3rd Cousin has a small town restaurant feel to it, as opposed to a big city, slick and fancy restaurant.